Jimmy Page, Kenneth Anger and Four Octopi

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Thanks to Frater FS

Ireland’s Sunday Independent (2 July 2006) included a fairly lengthy preamble to Robert Plant’s Cork concert.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the article fails to wander too far away from the familiar Led Zeppelin tales… Very clumsily “cut-and-pasted”, there’s more than the usual number of errors here: “Robert Page”?!

The legendarily depraved stories associated with Plant and his cohorts Page et al are often much more entertaining than his solo work could ever hope to be.

In the Seventies, Led Zep guitarist Robert Page purchased Boleskine, Crowley’s old home on the shores of the famous Loch Ness in Scotland. When iconic filmmaker Kenneth Anger approached Page about writing the music for his movie Lucifer Rising, he found, in Led Zep biographer Steven Davis’s words, “a priceless collection of Crowley artefacts: books, first editions, manuscripts, hats, canes, paintings, even the robes in which Crowley had conducted rituals.”

The legend caught between rock ‘n’ roll and a hard place

The Sunday Independent
02-07-2006

‘SQUEEZE me, baby, till the juice runs down my leg” will possibly not rival Keats or Shelley for its poetic lyricism. Robert Plant, however, has had rock critics waxing lyrical for decades now.

English Black Country boyo and shaggy-haired rock legend, Robert Anthony Plant is one of the greatest rock singers of his or indeed any generation.

Twenty-six years since the break-up of his old band Led Zeppelin, Plant still causes a frisson whenever he approaches a microphone – mostly in anticipation from devoted fans that he might break into Dazed &
Confused, Black Dog, Whole Lotta Love or the much-derided Stairway to Heaven (Zeppelin’s only top ten single).

Plant’s orgasmic-sounding vocals – a kind of musical karma sutra – are a joy to listen to, especially when he can be bothered to break a sweat, and his band turns up the volume. (Let us not forget that Led Zep were the classic prototype for heavy metal.)

Plant’s solo material is overshadowed by his Led Zeppelin work – a lot of which he will be playing at the Marquee in Cork on July 5 – and the interest in Plant as part of the myth of the band.

The legendarily depraved stories associated with Plant and his cohorts Page et al are often much more entertaining than his solo work could ever hope to be.

In the Seventies, Led Zep guitarist Robert Page purchased Boleskine, Crowley’s old home on the shores of the famous Loch Ness in Scotland. When iconic filmmaker Kenneth Anger approached Page about writing the music for his movie Lucifer Rising, he found, in Led Zep biographer Steven Davis’s words, “a priceless collection of Crowley artefacts: books, first editions, manuscripts, hats, canes, paintings, even the robes in which Crowley had conducted rituals.”

Again, according to Davis, the In Through the Out Door album was launched in 1978 at a “blasphemous Hallowe’en party at the Chiselhurst caves. Naked women lined the recesses of the caves and reclined before altars in the style of a black mass. Strippers dressed as nuns doffed their black habits.”

One of the more foolish myths said that Led Zeppelin messing with Crowley and his 666 mumbo jumbo was the cause of all the tragedy that befell the band. In August 1975, while on holiday in Greece, Plant and his family were almost killed in a serious car smash-up. While on tour the following July, Plant’s six-year-old son Karac unexpectedly died of a viral infection. On September 25, 1980 alco drummer John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham died from the effects of a night of wild – even for him – boozing. He died of accidental asphyxiation while sleeping it off at Jimmy Page’s country home in Windsor.

On December 4, 1980, the biggest band in the world split up. (In August 1979 they had played the Knebworth Festival to 400,000 fans.) Addicted to heroin, Robert Page blamed the Devil.

They say the Devil will find work for idle hands; and these dark musical figures from the midlands (that’s West Bromwich not Offaly) were a testament to Seventies epic excess and the preposterous myth of a
certain satanic bargain . . .

Like Robert Johnson, Plant and Page were alleged to have sold their souls to Beelzebub in return for the blues and some menacing, shuffling boogie rhythms like Kashmir. More likely, the band’s success had more to do with a huge amount of talent (and a ability to plagiarise old masters like Muddy Waters) than any Faustian pacts.

In any case, they made more money than they could ever hope to spend. Led Zeppelin’s 1973 US tour to promote House of the Holy was touted as the “biggest and most profitable tour in the history of the United States”.

They combined hedonism and the raw, black blues of the Mississippi Delta with Marquis de Sade-rivalling misogyny: the infamous “mudshark incident” in 1969 in the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle involving a 17-year-old redhead groupie named Jackie springs to mind, as does the filming of the episode for posterity; the “Mud Shark” was immortalised in song by Frank Zappa.

There were many such outrageous tales of pyscho-sexual exploits. According to one website: “One evening, two young girls were lounging in the bathtub of Led Zeppelin’s hotel suite. Page walked in. He giggled, ‘We figured you needed something to keep you company.’ Then he threw four live octopuses into the tub. Led Zeppelin later cheered on another adventurous female fan while she made love with her pet Great Dane.”

Plant hasn’t ever shaken off the Zeppelin legacy. And I can’t see that changing before he plays Cork on July 5.

Barry Egan

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